The stage is set. The actor is ready. The only thing that remains to be seen is if cinephiles will throng the cinema halls once again to watch Pathaan, in the same numbers and with the same hysteria as they have in the past, or if Shah Rukh Khan’s Midas Touch will be restricted just to the opening day.
Back in 2018, when Aanand L Rai’s Zero failed to earn money at the box office, a headline of a Forbes article read, ‘Shah Rukh Khan Deposed As Bollywood’s Box Office King’. Many wrote off the actor amid failures such as Zero, Fan and Jab Harry Met Sejal. But now, after four years and much contemplation by Shah Rukh about what he should do to attract his fans, he is back to the 70 mm screen in an action avatar, and with chiselled six-pack abs. His fans, well-wishers, trade experts, and even he is confident he will prove that he is the one and only king of the film industry with Pathaan’s success.
“I feel positive that brand Shah Rukh Khan will be revived. You cannot write off a superstar like Shah Rukh so easily,” trade analyst Komal Nahta told indianexpress.com around the release of Pathaan’s teaser.
Until 2010, SRK was the reigning ‘Badshah’ of Bollywood with one hit after another, year after year. He had started the millennium with hits like Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) and Devdas (2002), followed by Chalte Chalte and Kal Ho Naa Ho in 2003, Veer Zara and Main Hoon Na in 2004, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna and Don in 2006, Chak De India and Om Shanti Om in 2007 and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi in 2008. But, come 2010, SRK seemingly began to lose his pull. Although he delivered blockbusters Chennai Express (Rs 227.13 cr) and Happy New Year (Rs 203 cr), the hits were neck-to-neck with flops.
Shah Rukh’s ambitious superhero film Ra.One and second in the Don franchise, Don 2 failed to live up to the expectations. Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Dilwale and Raees did earn money, but they never matched the superstar-level numbers which were expected from a film with Shah Rukh as the lead actor. With Fan in 2016, the actor started to lose his audience, and Jab Harry Met Sejal in 2017 and Fan in 2018 had people writing his professional epitaphs. The actor, however, was far from done. The superstar, meanwhile, wasn’t burnished by the box office status.
However, even when the ‘Badshah’ of Bollywood was losing his reign over the ticket counters, he managed to pull the audience to theaters on the first day, be it for a Zero (2018) or Ra.One (2011). Zero earned Rs 19.35 cr on its first day. Ra.One also registered a double-digit opening of Rs 18.50 cr. Farah Khan’s Happy New Year got Shah Rukh one of the best opening days of his career as it earned Rs 44.97 cr. on the day of its release.
Now, Pathaan is Shah Rukh Khan’s chance of recapturing his lost glory, and as a newly-minted action star. Currently, none of the top 20 Bollywood grossers (in the domestic market) is a Shah Rukh Khan film. While it is too early to say if Pathaan will change that for the actor, his decision to do an out-and-out action thriller has got approval, at least from the trade. Nahta had said, “Shah Rukh’s choices seem to be good. Pathaan is looking like an exciting film.”